Many of us have probably experienced the terrible feeling of going to bed after a tiring day and finding ourselves unable to fall asleep. Instead of a good night of sleep, we are faced with a frustrating feeling of restlessness, even if our bodies are exhausted.
It’s disheartening because we all know the importance of sleep. Not getting enough of it means we’ll have little to no energy to tackle the problems of the next day.
Yet 40 percent of Americans report that they suffer from poor sleep.
What exactly happens when you don’t get enough sleep?
Simply put, sleep deprivation leaves us open to a higher risk of health problems like higher blood pressure, heart disease, a decline in cognitive functions, and an increased chance of getting sick.
Luckily, you don’t have to stay up tossing and turning to wait for a good night of sleep. Here are five things to do before bed that will help you fall asleep faster.
1. Try the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a favorite controlled breathing exercise for many who suffer from sleep deprivation. This method was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, a prominent doctor focused on holistic health. We’ve covered it in previous Spire articles but the technique is simple to learn and powerful in fostering relaxation.
The method creates a breathing pattern around the counts of four, seven, and eight. Start off by placing your tongue at the roof of your mouth just behind your two front teeth. Then begin by breathing in for a count of four, holding that breath for a count of seven, and exhaling deeply for a count of eight. You’ll need to exhale through your mouth and make a whooshing sound for the full effect.
Repeat this cycle four times sitting up in bed and then lay back down for a good night of sleep.
Deep controlled breathing exercises like this are an excellent way to calm your central nervous system, lower your heart rate, and fall asleep faster.
2. Watch ASMR Videos
ASMR, which stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, is a term that’s only recently entered our lexicon due to the rise in popularity of ASMR videos that help promote a sense of calm for listeners.
In ASMR videos, an artist creates soothing, low-tone sounds that create a “tingly feeling down your spine” that are meant to stimulate the relaxation response. The sounds can be anything, but many ASMR artists use their voices to create a soothing sound garden of low-pitched words.
And it seems to work. Those who use ASMR videos enthusiastically reported in a recent poll that they fell asleep much easier and were more relaxed after listening to them.
Another study also observed the activity in the brains of participants who listened to ASMR against a control group who didn’t listen. They found the areas of the brain related to mind wandering did not light up as much in the group that listened to ASMR videos, meaning that the mind was much calmer and focused.
If ASMR videos aren’t your style, you can also try white noise to create a blanket of sound to help guide you into deep sleep. White noise acts as a comforting baseline of soft sound so that you aren’t sensitive to any jarring noises that could wake you. If you live in a particularly loud neighborhood, it’s a great way to drive out unnecessary sound.
3. Get Out of Bed
This tip may seem counterintuitive but it can actually help to get out of bed and get your mind off the idea of going to sleep. It’s stressful to think about how little sleep we are getting.
Instead, try a little patience and get your mind off your inability to sleep.
When you get out of bed, try a simple activity like stretching or walking around the room to help you wind down.
4. Turn the Room Temperature Down
As we fall into a deep sleep, our body temperature drops. If your room temperature is too hot, your body won’t be able to regulate your core temperature and adjust. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the ideal room temperature for restful sleep should be between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
So if you’re finding it hard to fall asleep, cool your room by turning your thermostat down or opening a window.
5. Practice Visualization
The method of visualization has been found to be a helpful tool for insomniacs to fall asleep faster. A study found that insomniacs fell asleep 20 minutes faster than their counterparts who didn’t practice visualization.
Visualization takes advantage of the mind-body connection by forcing your brain to think of relaxing images so your whole body relaxes. Instead of lying in bed counting the dots on the ceiling, close your eyes and imagine a relaxing waterfall or beachside to fall into a deep sleep.
Good Sleep Habits Start During the Day
While these tips will help you fall asleep instantly when you’re in bed, it’s more powerful to establish a healthy sleep routine beforehand. Healthy lifestyle changes that promote better sleep quality will be beneficial in the long run.
Here are a few simple lifestyle changes to help you establish a healthier sleep routine:
- Don’t engage in any other activities other than sleeping (or sex) in your bed. This is important because it helps your mind associate your bed with being tired. Bringing other activities like work or browsing on the internet do not promote relaxation and will distract your mind in a bad way.
- Create a sleep routine before bed. Ideally, you should start to wind down for bed an hour before you want to be asleep. Get in the habit of doing the same activities at the same time before going to sleep. For example, you could take a warm shower an hour before bed every night, read for a bit, and then turn the lights off. Doing the same thing every night trains your mind to associate those events with sleep.
- Manage your stress throughout your day. Don’t carry your tension from the day or anxieties about tomorrow into bed. Head off stress before it hits with a device like the Spire Stone. To deal with the anxieties for tomorrow, try jotting them down in a planner in the evening before bed.
- Exercise during the day. Exercise is not only another fantastic way to manage stress but it also wears you out physically and mentally.
By paying attention to what you do during the day and making choices that promote better sleeping habits, you can fall asleep instantly every night.